Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 5 - Evidence - Meeting of February 11, 2008

OTTAWA, Monday, February 11, 2008

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 4:03 p.m. to examine and report upon the national security policy of Canada. Topic: Emergency Preparedness

Senator Colin Kenny (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I have already apologized to our witnesses for being so tardy. Very briefly, I will introduce the committee. Senator Tkachuk is deputy chair of the committee. We also have with us Senator Banks from Alberta, Senator Zimmer from Manitoba, Senator Moore from Halifax and Senator Mitchell from Alberta. We are expecting Senator Nancy Ruth, but we will get under way in any event.

I understand that you both have brief statements to make. Please proceed.

Jay Hope, Deputy Minister, Emergency Planning and Management, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, Government of Ontario: Honourable senators, today I will speak to what I believe is Canada's greatest challenge: engaging the individual or the citizen to better prepare themselves for emergencies, local or otherwise. As well, I will discuss how emergency management works at the local level by outlining the workings of emergency management in Ontario in an effort to clarify erroneous comments in the media attributed to a federal representative who appeared before your panel earlier. I am mindful of the time parameters and believe this is the best use of the time we have together.

At Emergency Management Ontario, our mission, vision and values are about being leaders and partners in what emergency managers refer to as the pillars of emergency management: prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery strategies. Disaster management today is as much about prevention, mitigation and preparedness as it is about response and recovery. There is a direct correlation to the former in terms of our resiliency — how fast and how well we respond and recover.

I would like to talk a bit about individual preparedness. While it is true that the province will take care of its citizens in an emergency, there will be an unavoidable gap of time that could last from minutes to days, depending on the nature of the disaster, between the emergency event itself and the arrival of emergency assistance. It is during this gap of time that individuals must be prepared.

Surveys conducted in Ontario inform us that only about 13 per cent of Ontarians are self-sufficient and prepared to deal with an emergency on their own for any extended period of time. It is this connection from mitigation to adaptation that is of primary importance to my organization, EMO, today. The implication of individual Canadians who leave responsibility for their safety entirely to someone else heavily impacts the direction my office needs to forge. Hence, we have been working with communities and with the media to inform the public of their need to have their own survival kit. However, significantly more needs to be done in this regard.

It is well established that resilience is the cornerstone to community safety. Couple that tenet of emergency management with the high expectations of the public that assume the province will take care of them in an emergency, and my challenge becomes the need to educate on an individual level such that safety plans, be they at the municipality, community or the provincial level, are viable. Therefore, discussion on the gaps between various levels of government must start, I believe, with individual citizen engagement. This is an area where much greater work needs to be done by all levels of government.

Every Ontario household should be self-sustaining for the first crucial 72 hours of an emergency, and a survival kit can make a life or death difference in a disaster. Food, water, light, clothing, medication, money and other items can be packed up ahead of time and kept at the ready to help people survive through a crisis.

On an instinctive level, most Ontarians know that they must prepare. In fact, most people have the elements of a survival kit in their home but have never thought to put them together. The message ``72 hours, is your family prepared?'' should be relevant for every Ontarian and its applicability noted by the business community as well.

While national initiatives, such as this 72-hour ad campaign, may be a useful effort to raise the awareness level among individuals, Ontario believes that the efforts of the federal government and provinces and territories could be more closely aligned, for example, by working together on co-branded templates. Formulating a plan on how best to educate the public to be ready in an emergency event is an acute component of our efforts to secure the safety and security of the citizenry.

Under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, every municipality shall develop and implement an emergency management program. These locally customized programs shall consist of an emergency plan, training programs, exercises, public education on the risks to public safety, and public preparedness for emergencies. These should all be developed through the lens of local risks. The first and most important step is to build a connection between a community's emergency plans and the people who live in the community. A plan currently on paper is a promising start. The challenge lies in making sure that plan comes alive in an emergency, which means it must be embraced and understood by the citizens of the community being served.

Ontario sees great value in developing, supporting and promoting programs that emphasize grassroots initiatives, for example, community groups, schools and youth groups. We have made this a key aspect of our public education and strategic communication efforts. We partnered with the Girl Guides to launch an emergency preparedness challenge crest for the 54,000 Girl Guide members in the province. We have engaged over 20 stakeholders to create an initiative that ensures that approximately 2.5 million people with disabilities and special needs have access to vital emergency preparedness information. We have reached out to diverse communities to ensure that all Ontarians receive this message by translating the guide into six different languages and working with the ethnic media to ensure that a broader audience is in receipt of the message.

I feel it necessary to respond to two points attributed by the media to Mr. Broughton and Mr. Ash in their appearance before the standing committee: the protection of critical infrastructure in the context of the national capital; and responding to large scale emergencies such as the ice storm.

In Ontario, we have a robust piece of legislation, the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. This act is the product of our collective experiences with the ice storm in 1998 and the blackout and SARS emergencies in 2003.

Each and every municipality in the province is required, on a yearly basis, to achieve an essential level of emergency management programming. In fact, Ottawa, along with over 440 Ontario municipalities, achieved compliance in 2007. As a foundational piece to their respective programs, municipalities like Ottawa conduct a hazard identification and risk assessment of their infrastructure. They link up with private and public entities that figure prominently in their state of readiness and represent a potential significant source of vulnerability or exposure. These activities are fundamental components of disaster resilience.

It so happens that in Ottawa the entities in question are the various departments of the federal government. Therefore, it is natural for the community emergency management program coordinator, like John Ash, to seek out officials from these departments to prepare. It would be ideal to have a single window into which the municipality could conduct that assessment, and it is my understanding that within the Preparedness and Recovery Directorate of Public Safety Canada there exists a unit responsible for continuity of government that might act as such a window.

We have anticipated the reluctance of contributors, such as federal departments, to the hazard identification and risk assessment process to share their plans. As such, we have crafted a dedicated section of our emergency management legislation to speak to how this information is held in confidence. In most communities, that reluctance is expressed by the private sector due to market share concerns, but public sector organizations such as federal departments may feel equally concerned. For the municipality to arrive at the level of readiness to which they aspire, all constituents that make up the city must cooperate. The province takes no issue with the federal government participating in this type of activity with municipalities.

I want to now provide you with a primer, if you will, on how we manage emergencies in Ontario. All municipalities know this process since it is based on the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The federal government understands it, too. It clearly lays out how and when the province will engage in the management of an emergency.

A municipal emergency may be declared when the head of council believes a situation constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property. This is a local decision, and the province does not intervene at this point, recognizing that the municipality has means to conduct its assessment.

At the provincial level, we respect the jurisdiction of the municipalities and will only declare a provincial emergency after we have applied a two-part test: first, that immediate action is necessary to prevent, reduce or mitigate a danger of major proportions; and, second, that the resources normally available to a ministry are unavailable or lacking. If the answer to both parts is yes, then we may declare a provincial emergency.

The rules of engagement are clear and broadly understood by municipal and provincial officials, as well as regional representatives from Public Safety Canada.

As the deputy minister responsible for emergency planning and management, I know that should we have another ice storm, municipalities, through their ongoing emergency management programs, will have an experienced community emergency management coordinator; an emergency information officer; a committee responsible for the development of their municipal program; a control group that will convene when an emergency befalls their municipality; an operations centre from which they will coordinate their response; and a plan on which they will base their efforts.

We at the provincial level will deploy staff to conduct assessments in consultation with municipalities to see when and what kinds of provincial resources and assets can be applied to support the response effort. When we are nearing the point of exceeding the capacity or capability of a municipality, we support their efforts and coordinate through our Provincial Emergency Operations Centre.

I would like to speak briefly about the role of the province in reference to large-scale emergencies. Your invitation spoke specifically to this topic, and I wanted to provide you with my views on the subject.

First, I like that you did not specify ``response to large-scale emergencies,'' since it is my belief that how the province deals with large-scale emergencies starts well before the incident and continues well after the last responders have returned to their posts.

Appreciate that I have 81 emergency management professionals working at Emergency Management Ontario for the whole province. They work at developing programs, designing training and exercises, creating plans, assessing risk, offering scientific opinion and supporting municipal and ministry officials with their own emergency management programs. I have to leverage as many resources external to my organization as possible if we are ever to reach our vision of making municipalities, ministries and communities disaster resilient.

First, there must be an acknowledgement that we at EMO are not the centre of the emergency management universe, that there are equally valid and complementary approaches resident within municipalities, First Nations communities and ministries. It is therefore my duty to encourage any and all efforts that further this notion.

Personally, I think we are on the right path. We recently achieved a 98 per cent compliance rate with our over 440 municipalities and ministries relative to our essential level of emergency management programming. What that translates into is small but significant developments at the local level, such as the creation of a memorandum of understanding amongst the municipalities in the Niagara region to share their community emergency management coordinators, thereby creating sustainability for the large or protracted emergency.

Second, we need to develop an incident management system that is Ontario specific. We have been working on this for a number of years. While I acknowledge that ideally we needed a system some time ago, we did it the right way by engaging representatives from the various first responder communities, municipalities and associations such that we have a system that recognizes the arrangements that were in place prior to this initiative and marks out a path to help all players achieve a measure of interoperability. This initiative permits the province to respond as a unified whole to those large-scale emergencies by employing public, private and NGO resources to maximize our response. In addition, the system is consistent with incident management practices used in neighbouring U.S. states. We truly believe it is the role of the province to coordinate large-scale emergency response efforts and, as such, we have undertaken a very significant and enduring initiative to promote the highest level of capacity.

To conclude, I came to explain the state of the relationships in Ontario that relate to emergency management. My examples have focused on the great work done prior to the event that have a net positive effect on the way we respond to those disasters. If there is a singular thing you should take away from these examples, it is that we will never come to a point where our state of readiness is achieved. We will constantly be relying on our existing relationships with municipalities, First Nations communities, provincial ministries, the private sector and our federal colleagues to better prepare for the new and emerging hazards that we have not even thought of.

I thank you for the opportunity to say a few remarks at the outset.

The Chair: Did I miss something in the first paragraph of your presentation? On line three, you said, ``. . . in an effort to clarify erroneous comments in the media attributed to a federal representative who appeared before your panel.'' I am not clear, having heard your presentation, what you are speaking of.

Mr. Hope: I read an article in the newspaper a week or so ago about comments attributed to the federal government. I am not sure whether the federal representative actually said them or if they were media remarks about how emergencies actually worked the province. There was a comment that the federal government representative says the province does not like them interfering with municipalities. I was speaking to these comments in the media attributed to Mr. Scott Broughton, I believe, as well as Mr. John Ash.

At the provincial level, we do not mind the federal government having discussions with municipalities as long as they let us know they are going to have those discussions. We would prefer that they include us in those discussions at the table. If there are any programs that they are intent on delivering directly with those municipalities, we say that we need to be at the table if it changes any of the existing relationships that we have together.

I wanted to provide some context to what I read in the newspaper. I am not saying today that those comments were actually said by Mr. Broughton because I read them and did not call him subsequent to my reading them. I wanted to provide clarity for the record.

The Chair: That is helpful. I think we could get a copy of the blues of that testimony and perhaps clear it up before the meeting is over. It may or may not have been said. It is useful to clear it up, and I am glad you raised it.

Please proceed, Mr. Hodgins.

David Hodgins, Managing Director, Alberta Emergency Management Agency: Honourable senators, I must say at the outset that I have done considerable research in preparing for the presentation. My compliments to the committee for the tremendous amount of research and review of emergency management initiatives over the last several years in Canada. It is certainly a topic that needs a lot of research and understanding. Well done.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Hodgins: I have been asked to speak to the coordination of emergency preparedness between the various levels of government, and I will focus on that particular topic. In my presentation — and I believe a copy was provided prior to my attendance — I provide an overview in terms of Canada's disaster experience. With respect to Canada's experience, I picked a few examples to show how diverse we are when it comes to responding to major emergency events. The terms of marine events, the sinking of the Empress of Ireland is one tragedy that many people really do not know much about until they ask. There is also the Alberta experience with the Frank Slide and mine disasters, rail emergency incidents, tornadoes and such. There is a definite need to make sure we are well prepared in Canada.

In terms of connectivity and reality, government exists to a significant degree to ensure public safety and security. Governments have a duty to provide a contemporary structure in support of emergency management programs and services. It is therefore necessary to have robust systems for emergency management that champion the four key pillars mentioned by Mr. Hope: prevention/mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery activities. This framework is needed to ensure the safety of the public and first responders.

I want to emphasize the safety of first responders. As much as the world of emergency service is about public safety, we have to consider the safety of first responders as we prepare programs. I am referring to police, paramedics, firefighters, search and rescue and other individuals who support emergency response.

Fortunately or unfortunately in my career — I have been involved for 31 years — most of my service has been on the municipal side; 27 years with municipal fire departments. I served as chief for some great cities in this country. Obviously, as fire chief I had responsibility for emergency management.

I remember being on the street and involved in the tornado back in the Edmonton capital region in 1987 and spending a year reviewing that event and how we could do better going forward. I have been involved in major wildfires that have impacted Alberta and British Columbia. I was involved in the response to the power outage here in Ontario, as I was chief in London, Ontario. I also have experience with industrial and transportation emergencies. I bring a passion to the table as well as some ideas on how we might move forward.

Most communities, as well as provincial, territorial and federal government officials, have articulated a need for a ``joined-up approach'' as they seek to provide unified, seamless, integrated, effective and affordable citizen-centred emergency management programs and services.

Governments have done a good job of promoting the connectivity necessary within their direct sphere of influence. However, an opportunity exists to grow linkages amongst the levels of government.

The realization of a state-of-the-art, ``joined-up'' and distinctly Canadian emergency management system is possible; the ``where there is a will there is a way'' approach. To get there, a clearly articulated and widely communicated shared vision is necessary, one that leads to a well-defined mission with stated goals and objectives linked to desired outcomes.

Critically important as well are performance measures to ensure accountability in the process and to know when we have achieved success.

Several provincial governments have or are considering restructuring their emergency management systems. They are restructuring to ensure systems are connected, not just in support of local governments and industry, but to improve system effectiveness.

The Province of Alberta created the Alberta Emergency Management Agency through legislation in June 2007. A driver and key focus of the agency is to ensure local governments and industry are directly connected and supported in the greater emergency management system. Other jurisdictions to reorganize include Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario and British Columbia. Saskatchewan is currently reviewing their structure and opportunities to restructure.

These contemporary structures ``join up'' provincial emergency management programs and provincial fire services. These new structures are focusing on relationships with the federal government as part of their strategy to fully capitalize on potential synergies. Connecting programs aimed at reducing emergencies and improving safety at a provincial level provides greater capacity and increased opportunity to enhance linkages across this great country. This ultimately provides the most effective support for communities and their first responders.

There are opportunities available to join up. There is a need for all levels of government to be connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. This is possible within existing structures.

The realization of a joined-up system requires deliberate thinking and strategic leadership. Trusting and respectful relationships are necessary to create connected and successful programs and services. These relationships will be realized through regional federal-provincial-territorial structures, systems and programs.

With respect to governance and boundaries, the public expects effectiveness from their governments in the form of acceptable response and recovery services during major emergency events. Governments must aggressively pursue opportunities to ensure this effectiveness by creating vertical and horizontal alignments toward the realization of a truly joined-up system. A benefit of being connected and prepared in advance of emergencies is that response and recovery will be more effective, which will ultimately result in financial savings. In my world of emergency services, understanding, life safety and the protection of property and environment are always at the top of the list. We need to consider, at the same time, the finances involved in this business.

The current structure is strengthened by the presence of Public Safety Canada within the provincial and territorial regions by effectively ensuring a joined-up system exists at the ``coal face'', the joined-up system being there in support of local communities.

A positive federal-provincial working relationship exists in Alberta, as management representatives meet routinely to communicate and share information related to programs, services, preparedness and response initiatives. Alberta has a positive relationship with Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. This constructive connection provides Alberta Emergency Management Agency with resources to deliver essential emergency preparedness services for First Nations communities in Alberta.

In the event of a major emergency incident, the federal government does have resources strategically located within regions throughout Canada. These regional systems are well positioned to connect directly to provincial and territorial systems. It is the responsibility of the provinces and territories to then connect directly with communities and their systems.

The establishment of Canada Command is an excellent illustration of the federal government's commitment in support of linking provinces and territories and their communities to emergency management resources as may be required.

There are working examples of what I have spoken to in terms of a joined-up system, approach and connectivity. With respect to the safety of the public and first responders, communications is an absolute priority. Again, on a personal note, having been involved with many emergency events and exercises in preparation for emergency events, the first thing brought forward as a result of the post-event analysis is communications that could have been better or should have been better.

Police need to be able to better talk to fire officials and paramedics, and the system generally needs to be able to better communicate in the interests of getting the right resources to the right place at the right time.

To support this critical communication need, the federal, provincial and territorial governments have agreed to create a Canadian emergency public warning system. This is a practical example of how governments are coming together in the interests of public and first responder safety.

Another paradigm associated with creating joined up systems is Alberta's first responder radio communications system project. This proposed multi-million-dollar system will provide modern communications equipment to ensure police, paramedics, firefighters, search and rescue personnel, as well as a myriad of support and essential resource agencies are able to connect and communicate with each other during day-to-day events as required, and, in particular, during major emergency events.

An excellent model exists in Nova Scotia. The Province of Nova Scotia, in partnership with the Halifax Regional Municipality and the federal government, are sharing space within one facility. This modern facility is regularly staffed with municipal and provincial staff as well as representatives from the Department of National Defence and the Department of Industry.

British Columbia supports a joint emergency liaison committee — JELC for short — that operates in the Lower Mainland. JELC is a model whereby local communities and the provincial government connect and address regional challenges and opportunities using a number of working groups. JELC provides a forum for communities in the Lower Mainland to deal with issues relating to emergency preparedness across jurisdictions. JELC is co-chaired by the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Deputy Solicitor General and Vancouver's city manager. The point is that senior people are involved in the organization.

Alberta is currently establishing an institute to support safety, environmental and security functions in the province. The institute will be focused on several areas around research, reviewing incidents and opportunities to add to training and experience. The institute will be led by a board of directors made up of key stakeholder groups including industry, academia, government, non-government organizations and emergency management organizations, as well as the public. The institute sees great value in being linked to existing agencies such as the Canadian Police Research Council and the Canadian Risk Hazard Network.

There is an opportunity to adopt protocols to ensure timely deployment of resources, including technical and professional expertise. Beyond the traditional first responder mutual aid programs, an automatic aid program is also valuable during times of crisis.

As well, there are pilot program opportunities. The Canadian Emergency Management College provides an excellent valuable venue for federal, provincial, territorial and community emergency service practitioners from across Canada to come together to learn about and discuss best practices, to network and to develop positive relationships. The college is well positioned to reach out beyond their formal mandate of providing education and training services to provide a forum to bring together emergency management, police, fire, paramedics, search and rescue and essential services. This is an opportunity to create an advisory council.

Provincial representatives from the four Western provinces met recently in Manitoba to share ideas and discuss the need to create a Western Canada alliance — a joined-up system. Representatives agreed that there is a need to create a unified and supportive emergency management strategy that includes fire services within this framework. The central vision revolves around the need to provide a forum and methodology to effectively engage key representatives from federal, provincial and territorial governments, as well as from communities, Aboriginal organizations and industries on public safety matters. Such a forum will allow Western provinces to provide common and consistent advice and input associated with emergency management and fire services, strategic planning, programs and service needs. These representatives are currently drafting a memorandum of understanding to allow for the sharing of programs and resources as required routinely and during major emergency events.

In conclusion, we should never lose sight of the fact that emergency management is about public and first responder safety first and foremost. The public and first responders need to know that governments and communities are performing within joined-up systems. At the same time, we need to relentlessly and consistently communicate to the public that they are responsible for their personal safety, that of their family generally and for the first 72 hours following an emergency. The focus of the entire Canadian system must be on preparedness measures.

The reality in Canada is that there are not enough resources currently available and there will never be enough first responder resources available to do everything for everyone immediately following a major emergency event. The public and first responders need to be made aware of this fact and accept this reality. Having said this, we are duty- bound to have in place the most effective system we can envisage so that we can deliver our full potential in terms of the availability of resources.

A joined-up system in support of emergency management and response optimizes the use of all support and response resources and still respects the division of power between the federal and provincial levels of government. This is our best hope to achieve optimization.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Senator Banks: Thank you, gentlemen, for being here and for helping us in our search for the truth.

Mr. Hope, notwithstanding what you have said, what is the biggest challenge that you face on a day-to-day basis right now? What is keeping you awake at night?

Mr. Hope: I am trying to get people to recognize that, as concerned as they are about terrorism, it is severe weather events that they are likely to have to deal with. As I said at the outset, people need to have an emergency plan for themselves and they need to be prepared. The greatest challenge is engaging the public in those issues.

Senator Banks: The message is that for 72 hours you have to look after yourself because we probably cannot get to you in that time.

Mr. Hope: That is right. Also, as Mr. Hodgins said, there are not enough responders to get to everyone. During and after the ice storm in the eastern part of Ontario and in Quebec, it was a significant period of time before emergency responders were able to get to some people. The 72-hour kit is essential, and it would be better if individuals went beyond that.

To give an example, in 2004 I was appointed deputy commissioner in the OPP. In 2006 I became the Commissioner of Emergency Planning and Management for Ontario and moved from the small community of Orillia to Toronto. As I was looking for a new home, I wanted to ensure that my family would be as prepared as possible for longer periods of time if I was not around the home, given my responsibilities. I looked for a home with an alternate heating source; I wanted a working wood fireplace. I wanted a gas stove. I wanted to ensure that we were near an electricity substation so that the grid around my home would be stronger. I wanted a fire station very nearby so that the response could be quicker.

These are the kinds of things I took into account. Of course, these things cost me more, but it is really about mitigation. I wanted to do as much as possible at the front end to ensure that, if there was an emergency or disaster, the people I loved would be safe and secure throughout the disaster. It is that kind of thinking that I would like to see on a national basis.

Senator Banks: There is currently a national advertising campaign on that. Mr. Hodgins, is that what keeps you awake at night, too?

Mr. Hodgins: What keeps me awake at night is wanting to do the best we can do to create a joined-up system and enhance communication amongst the people involved in emergency management at the federal, provincial and territorial levels and down to local governments and communities. We need to ensure that we are connected and we are communicating.

I can look back to specific examples of major emergency events where the system was not connected and the response was not what it could have been. Therefore, we are focused in our agency. We have been directed to ensure that within the government of the Province of Alberta we are connected across ministries and joined up. Beyond that, we want to ensure that we are connected to our communities and to our industries so that we can create the most effective response possible. We are working toward that. However, I have been on the job for 31 years, and communication has been and still is an issue on which we need to focus. I can say in all sincerity that there is a definite wish at this point in time to do that.

Mr. Hope: If I can comment on the current advertising campaign, as I see that campaign, from my standpoint, that is not enough. The commercials occur on an occasional basis, but we need a sustained effort and we need to do it in a concerted way. We have an Emergency Preparedness Week in Ontario each year, and it is during that week that I attempt to get the municipalities talking about the same thing, raising the awareness level around the issue of having 72 hours to get your family prepared. While I acknowledge and agree with you that it is out there, I would like to see those things done more often and applied more broadly.

Senator Banks: It is always a question of money.

Mr. Hope, have you identified or can you tell us about a trend in the incidence of both natural and manmade disasters in the past 10 years? Have you noticed such a trend, and, if so, what impact has it had on your organization? I know you have not been there for 10 years, but you have been around for 10 years.

Mr. Hope: I have been in the emergency world for 27 years now. We try to look at what is going on around the world. It is an environmental scan based in reality and based on what is actually happening. You can see that we have had a significant amount of flooding, terrorist events that affect mass transit, and there is, as I mentioned before, a lot of talk about what the effects of climate change will be.

In Ontario, we have had forest fires, and if I go back to what occurred for us around 2003, we experienced the blackout and SARS. There is not one particular emergency that tends to occur time and time again, but if I had to pick two broad areas, I would choose natural disasters and the weather, as well as a focus on terrorist incidents as they apply to mass transit.

Senator Banks: Mr. Hodgins, what is your feeling about the last 10 years and how it has affected your agency? Your agency has not existed for 10 years, but how has it affected the business of your agency?

Mr. Hodgins: My comments would be similar to Mr. Hope's in that weather has certainly been an issue and one that we are struggling to deal with, I might add, given that it is so uncertain. The wildfire experience in British Columbia was tremendous in terms of what happened, and I see that happening in other provinces as well.

On the issue of human causes, I would suggest that it is not my direct area of responsibility. In Alberta, critical infrastructure is the responsibility of the Solicitor General, but, at the same time, we work hand in hand given that we have to partner in the interest of public safety. Significant threats have been identified, and we need to ensure that the security forces are prepared to deal with them.

Senator Banks: You were very clear that your review of previous events has shown in every case that the first problem is among responding agencies. Technologically that is not a problem at all. You could fix that if you had enough money and enough authority.

My next questions to you will be couched in a certain feeling of frustration, which is shared by many of my colleagues. Since this committee was formed seven or eight years ago, we have been hearing in respect of interoperability and interagency communication and cooperation as among the three orders of government that, ``We are looking at,'' or ``I will be attending a meeting on that next week.'' In respect of communications, we have heard the same thing. We have seen the Nova Scotia example, which is good. Technologically, there is no impediment whatsoever; it can be streamed however the parties want.

What is the holdup? We have been waiting, in our case, for seven years, to get that fixed across the country. What is the problem in Alberta? Why have we not got that now?

Mr. Hodgins: Certainly, it is an issue of being joined up, as I have presented.

Senator Banks: Surely no one argues with the advisability and desirability of that proposal. No one says that is not a good idea.

Mr. Hodgins: You are correct. When you look at emergency services, we have grown in a system where fire was doing what fire does, paramedics were doing what the paramedic emergency medical system was involved in and the police were doing what police would do. The system works fairly well on a routine basis, but when you come to the emergency events, there is the need to connect. We have come a long way in my time over the last 30 years in joining up the systems and creating communications systems to allow people to talk to one another. In support of that communications system, there needs to be an agreement on the incident command protocols and how communications will work.

Senator Banks: Is that what is holding it up, namely, the question of who is in charge here?

Mr. Hodgins: It is not a question of who is in charge as much as the organization formally agreeing to how communications will work in a process. Once we have identified who will be in the lead through the incident command system when something happens, people will buy into that right away. It is a matter of ``messaging'' that information, which must be done within our systems. We need to talk to people about how the communication structures work. Who needs to be talking to whom? What information needs to be transferred? Who needs to know what?

The platform or the hardware has been a challenge. Over the last several years, governments have stepped up and are putting money into fixing that platform. It is one thing to keep up with technology, as I am sure you are aware, but the other significant part we need to focus on is the relationship issue and how we communicate during the major emergency events. Communication is always the key issue in a post-event analysis. It is not always that the radio did not work or the phone did not work; rather, it is the case that someone in the system did not know what was happening and they should have known because of the need to deploy the resources to the right place at the right time.

Senator Banks: I understand that, but if you were explaining this to the guy who was taking the number 5 bus home to Mill Woods and who had an understanding that this is a problem and has been a problem for years and that the respective bureaucracies have been addressing it for years, what would you be able to tell him with respect to an expected timeline? The technological issues are continually evolving, but you have to jump in at some point and say, ``We are going to use this system for now.'' How long do you think it will take for that to actually happen? Once the protocol is decided upon and a decision taken that for this kind of event that person will be sitting in that chair, how soon will it be before that person can speak to everyone they need to?

Mr. Hodgins: In the province of Alberta, we are very close to a formal request for proposals for the system that will connect agencies across the province. That has been dealt with. The incident command structure that addresses who needs to know, when they need to know and what they need to know is also being implemented across the province of Alberta as well.

Senator Banks: Is it a year away or two years?

Mr. Hodgins: It is difficult for me to speak to the hardware side of the radio program, as that is not my area of responsibility. I would suspect that that system will be in place in less than two years. We are already working on the people side of the communications challenge.

Senator Banks: You think that the protocols will be solved, which is a precondition of the application, and that some kind of hardware will be put in place within a couple of years.

Mr. Hodgins: Yes, senator. The system will be in place and up and running within a couple of years. We are already developing the communications protocols around how agencies such as police, fire, paramedic, search and rescue and others will communicate during major emergency events.

I would not want to leave you with the impression that we have not made gain over the last 30 years, but communications is so critically important during major emergency events that it is something we will always want to improve upon.

Senator Banks: That is why it is hard for us to understand — not just in Alberta but in other places, too — why it has not been done. You have given me an answer. Thank you very much.

Mr. Hodgins: It also goes back to the relationships and the joined-up systems when we actually sit down as jurisdictions — whether as provinces and territories or the federal government and local governments — to work together to implement unified solution.

Senator Banks: I understand that, but that guy riding home from work on the bus tonight will have a hard time understanding why something happened to him and his family and someone did not get there in time because the bureaucrats could not get together and solve these problems over years. He or she will be fairly unhappy at the prospect. I wish you good luck.

Mr. Hodgins: I have one further response. In the modern systems that we have created over the last few years — based on Hurricane Katrina, for example, and what could have happened and should have happened — we have ensured that we have had the right people in charge of and responsible for emergency management. They are able to make the key decisions without having to second-guess. I would say to the individuals on the bus on the way to Mill Woods that we have people in command positions who are well trained and experienced. They will make those decisions and will not wait to be told, which is really important in all of this.

Senator Banks: Mr. Hope, you talked about the municipalities in Ontario — and this is true everywhere to a degree — being required to have emergency plans and programs in place, which is very wise. Who pays for them? The background to my question is that we have often heard from municipalities from coast to coast to coast that there are lots of requirements made upon municipalities by the two other orders of government, but no one is bellying up to the bar.

Mr. Hope: The question of who pays for them is not my direct area of expertise.

Senator Banks: You know the answer, though.

Mr. Hope: I can tell you that I have heard your statement many times from municipalities about it being a download. If it were me and we had an emergency and my community was not prepared, I do not think that as a resident I would be happy to hear that we did nothing because it was someone else's responsibility. Again, I go back to what I see in the environment in terms of what appears to be an increasing number of disasters. I would want to make sure that my municipality was as prepared as possible. I would want to make investments in that area.

I recognize that it is difficult to do all the things that a municipality is required to do. There is a balance. At the same time, what we are asking them to do through our Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act — and these 15 different elements that would make a community prepared — assists that community in a disaster to be resilient so they can respond and recover and ensure that people are safe. I cannot think of anything more important than ensuring those things. In fact, as my colleague mentioned, the prime responsibility of a government is to make sure that its citizens are safe and secure.

On the direct question of where the money comes from, that needs to be figured out, but I know that it is in aid of something that is at the heart of our communities.

Senator Banks: I have always argued that none of us pays as much as we should be paying for the privileges and services that we get from our respective municipalities. Tell me what your answer would be to municipal politicians who say that the federal government is lowering our taxes and our tax rates, the provincial governments are lowering our taxes and our tax rates, but we are being required to do things that oblige us to raise our mill rate because that is our only source of income. Is the answer, yes, you have to pay more? Which is it? That is the answer that I give. Is that your answer, too?

Mr. Hope: I am not in that business. I do not want to seem like I am evading the question of responding on behalf of our elected representatives in that regard. That is all that I can tell you. I know it costs more. I know as a citizen that I do not like to pay more, but when I think about my family and I see the events around the world and the things that I have done to ensure that they are safe, I make sure I pay more. If that means that I do not get as fancy a car or as fancy a home, those are the decisions I have to make when I balance the things that are on my plate.

Senator Zimmer: Gentlemen, thank you for presenting to us today. I am like a kid in a candy store; I could ask you a thousand questions. However, I want to pick up on what Senator Banks just asked you about creative fundraising.

I came back from Toronto last night to learn that on my bill there was a charge of almost $5; the title was DMT. I asked them what it was and they thought it was a charge levied to all guests of hotels since the 2003 SARS incident. That is one way they are raising funds toward dealing with these issues. Do you know anything about that at all?

The Chair: It is referred to as the damn municipal tax.

Mr. Hope: I saw a similar line item on a bill I had and I asked the question as well. They told me that it went toward the increased cost of advertising tourism for the Province of Ontario externally to promote this wonderful province. I did not get the same answer you received, and I cannot speak to whether or not that is the same thing.

Senator Tkachuk: It is a municipal tax to market the city of Ottawa. We have to pay the tax here in the city when we stay in a hotel. I had to find out about it because it drove me crazy. It is to market Ottawa through Ottawa Tourism. They charge it to tourists to market themselves. That is exactly what they do.

Senator Zimmer: I got that first answer also, but now it is more creative. I think that is what it is; they use the tax to market, but somehow it may be tied in. They do say it is to market their product. I think it comes from the Chamber of Commerce or the hotel association.

The Chair: Mr. Hope, you now have the information before you from the transcript. Do you have anything to add to your earlier comments?

Mr. Hope: I wanted to ensure that the position of the province was clear in my remarks. My remarks were in no way casting aspersions on the representative from the federal government, and so I will let them stand as they are.

The comments that I see here read as follows:

However, in terms of us going out and meeting with them directly, we have not done anything. The provinces and territories prefer that we do not.

If that is the position, it causes me a little concern because I would want to ensure the federal government is doing everything it can to ensure that we have disaster resilient communities.

If it assists in understanding my remarks, I do not mind, from the provincial standpoint, that they go out and meet with John Ash here in Ottawa to ensure that all of the wonderful historic buildings are as resilient as possible. I say go ahead and do that. I just hope that they would invite us to the table as they have that conversation.

Senator Tkachuk: Do you think your equivalent in Quebec would feel the same way?

Mr. Hope: I cannot speak for Quebec in any way, so I do not know.

The Chair: Why not ask the equivalent question of the representative from Alberta?

Senator Tkachuk: We can ask him, too. Mr. Hodgins?

Mr. Hodgins: In Alberta, we have a good structure whereby the federal and provincial governments work together, and we work then with the municipal governments. We would want to be involved as decisions are made from the federal level in support of programs at the local level, only because the province needs to be there and connected long term. Often federal support is on the capital side of the program, which is fine to start the program, but, as a province, we need to be there to give ongoing support to the program through the necessary maintenance and training.

From the perspective of the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, we want to be partnered and connected with the federal government as they talk to local communities in the best interests of the public and the local communities.

Senator Zimmer: In the upcoming March issue of Châtelaine, women take the initiative you talked about. The 72- hour advertisement you mentioned does two things. It creates an awareness that NIMBY — not in my backyard — does not apply anymore. In addition to letting you know what you should get, it creates an awareness of what you should do.

You said it correctly in that this is only a beginning. There are further instructions about items that you should get, but the advertisement refers to calling in to find out what else you can do. You are absolutely right; there is a lot more you can do. In Ontario, for instance, if a tornado strikes, you want to be below ground. If you are in Winnipeg and the disaster is a flood, you want to be above ground.

It may be too early to respond to these questions, but how long has this ad been out? Have you had enough time to find a response rate to these ads and identify how people are responding to them?

Mr. Hope: No, I have not had the opportunity to do that. These ads are sponsored by the federal government. When I saw the ad for the first time eight months or so ago, I was captivated by it. I thought it was very well done, and I give them kudos for their creativity and professionalism. I had hoped that we could have done those kinds of things together. Being in the emergency management business, we would have loved to have partnered with them, and perhaps that campaign could have been broader in scope.

As the composition of the province and country changes, from my perspective it is important that those ads also speak to individuals from ``racialized'' communities and other communities, people who are disabled and the hearing impaired. The ads need to be multi-layered as well.

During Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans we saw that people would not leave. There were issues where they would not leave their pets. We had individuals who were elderly. If you want to be successful at the end of day as you are trying to reduce the number of people who die, who are displaced and get evacuated, you need to ensure you are talking to many different sectors. If this particular ad is just focused on one particular community that watches television in English, then a number of other communities will not get that message.

Senator Zimmer: You just scooped my next question. I heard a few minutes ago that BlackBerrys all across the world are down. Funny, but maybe not so funny.

One other place that would be extremely good to target is schools — public education and children. They are very alert to these things and they take the information home.

You are right that all the other ethnic groups and the disabled are extremely important. I would hope, as you have suggested, that the municipalities, the provinces and the feds do these ads together. You have a lot to bring to the table of other places to get the information out.

Another group that you mentioned is the First Nations. I am not sure that they are being reached right now. It is extremely important to get that information out to them. What is the best source and method of reaching everyone — rural, urban, First Nations — or is there a variety of methods?

Mr. Hope: There is not one particular method. Each community is so complex and nuanced that it really requires an understanding of each specific community, which again comes back to money.

We put out a guide for individuals who are disabled and who have special needs, and we produce that guide in six different languages. We are advertising for people, and we are doing it now in The Economist and a number of different ethnic newspapers. It really requires people with expertise and people who come from these communities. It is not enough that individuals sometimes go to university and learn different languages. You have to actually feel and know the community to know what works. It is a multi-layered approach.

Mr. Hodgins: I believe there is a need for champions within communities. We have started to look more toward opportunities where we support people within communities who can help us convey the message. It is part of the joined-up system. We need to create regions that are fully connected in the interests of education, training and information. The more we look to create regional systems — and I am not talking amalgamation; I am talking integration that we can support within regions — we will be much more effective.

As an example, I talked about public responsibility. We need to focus on the public accepting some responsibility. Shortly after the wildfires in British Columbia, I recall being on the radio speaking about how people can do things to help themselves. One caller was very clear. He had a home in an ``intermix'' area of forest and had good insurance; if that home burned down, that was just fine. My suggestion was, ``Have you told your local responders not to come if your property burns because the men and women of the fire service, police officers, et cetera, will be coming, lights and sirens, to risk their lives to get to your home.''

We actually came up with a program to address some of the challenges around people and their complacency about being prepared. It was referred to as Red Rock/Green Rock. If the fire was coming toward your community and you lived in the interface/intermix area, experts would go by. If you had a green rock, chances were that we could do something to save your property. If you had done nothing to help yourself — and there are many things you can do to help yourself in a wildfire situation — and had a red rock, we were not coming. That is a hard thing to do.

As much as we talk about governments needing to be prepared and to be ready, as I said earlier, there will never be enough resources. I remember being on the Sherwood Park freeway July 31, 1987, immediately after the tornado had gone through and killed 27 people and cost $300 million in damage. We had resources coming from all over Alberta to help, but we did not have enough resources.

Senator Zimmer: One thing you did mention to us is that another audience you reach are the Girl Guides, which is a great network. The other one, of course, is the Boy Scouts.

When I watch movies about terrorism, the terrorists have a target, but they do not hit the target first; they always hit the communications system. I always wondered why they did that. The reason is that in doing that they can render a nation helpless. Hopefully we can come up with a system or a variety of communication systems that the terrorists cannot render helpless. That is the first thing they hit and then they go for the target.

This ad has created awareness for me. When I get home to Winnipeg next week, I will start getting prepared. I have left it go. That ad has a tremendous impact. Deal with the other levels so they work with you to communicate this information because it has tremendous impact.

Senator Mitchell: My first question is to Mr. Hodgins. I am very interested in this ad. As an Albertan, would I go to, or do we have something in Alberta that is equivalent? If not, does Alberta contribute to this program?

Mr. Hodgins: We contribute, not financially, but through advice in support of the commercials that the federal government has been airing. There is information available through our government website and the Alberta Emergency Management Agency. We are out and about as much as we can be.

Another example of what we do to be aggressive as we campaign for people to be prepared is distribute business cards when we are at conventions and people come and talk to us at our booth. We have a laminated business card, and on the back we provide information about how to be prepared. It is there for everyone to see. We try as best we can to get the message out.

Senator Mitchell: I am interested in the federal-provincial-territorial coordination issue. We have had a number of witnesses, and it is clear there is tremendous energy, commitment and expertise. This is a complex country to manage, with different levels of government. Do you both feel or have a sense as to whether there are national standards for emergency preparedness? Do they exist? Do you think they should exist? If so, how would they be structured and what would be the process for creating them?

Mr. Hodgins: In terms of creating standards, there are some standards available, absolutely. The Canadian Standards Association has presented standards with respect to emergency management and preparedness that various jurisdictions are reviewing. There are also good examples internationally.

I agree that we need to come to a place where the federal government, the provinces and the territories support a standard of what emergency management needs to be in the interests of public safety in local communities. There has been good work happening in that regard and we are encouraged by that work. Workgroups have been established to make more recommendations about how we can be better joined up and connected.

Mr. Hope: I would echo those comments. We attend the federal-provincial-territorial meetings. They have a ministers' meeting on an annual basis. Mr. Hodgins is chairing the deputy ministers' forum, which happens twice a year in preparation for the ministers' meeting. We are working on a list of priorities. That could be seen as a set of standards in terms of where we want to go.

The dialogue gets better every time I attend. It is the second meeting. Like in any relationship, you have points of agreement and points of challenge, and I would say we have those, too. The situation is improving, and I have seen the relationship between the provinces and territories become stronger over the last little while, which is great in terms of the sharing of resources, particularly during an emergency.

Senator Mitchell: I guess the federal deputy minister would chair the meeting, but who would take responsibility to develop, finalize and get approval from the ten provinces, three territories and the federal government for a set of national standards? How close are we to getting there?

Mr. Hodgins: Senator Mitchell, we have in place an organization referred to as SOREM, Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management, and they have workgroups focused on that very issue and are producing. That is critically important.

The Canadian Council of Emergency Officials is working with senior officials to ensure that happens. There have been some tremendous synergies and relationships created nationally, reporting back to deputy ministers with recommendations. We take those recommendations to our federal counterparts when we have the federal-provincial- territorial meetings.

Senator Banks: Are the municipalities at those meetings?

Mr. Hodgins: The municipalities are not directly involved, but we make sure they are connected through our provincial structure. It is tremendously important for us that the municipalities are connected as partners because we know that the response resources from municipalities are front and centre during any major emergency event.

Senator Banks: However, they are not at those meetings?

Mr. Hodgins: In my case, I report directly to the Minister of Municipal Affairs. That minister attends those meetings and reports back through the minister structure to connect communities.

Senator Mitchell: In close relation to the idea of national standards is the idea of best practices. Is there a structured way that you exchange information and protocols on best practices? Does someone dealing with a flood in Manitoba learn from someone who has dealt with a flood in Ontario or Quebec?

Mr. Hodgins: We are working on a system, but we are not there yet. Through the Canadian Council of Emergency Officials and through the Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management, we are attempting to better communicate and share information.

In Alberta we have seen the need, and we are creating an institute focused on post-event analysis and sharing information. The federal government will be bringing senior officials for emergency management together in March here in Ottawa to also talk about a formal process for sharing information and best practices within our industry.

Mr. Hope: This is a great opportunity for me to speak to that particular question. I think what we need is a clearing house for best practices and lessons learned. The natural location for that is the Canadian emergency management centre. Currently we do not have a mechanism for what we are calling this knowledge transfer of best practices. It would aid us greatly to have all of the emergencies that happen in Canada and throughout the world coming there.

We use the services of the Conference Board of Canada, which is a great location. We speak and they put out reports on Hurricane Katrina, et cetera, and the things that happen from there. One-stop shopping would be great. I look forward to the meeting in March that Mr. Hodgins references.

Senator Mitchell: Will the institute you are developing be focused strictly on Alberta? Will it have a national presence? Will it facilitate the exchange of information and learning from experience within Alberta, or will it have a national presence?

Mr. Hodgins: We plan to build the platform within Alberta, but because we will be connected with industry, which is good at reaching out beyond artificial boundaries and borders, we will be looking at what is happening across Canada and internationally as well. We need to start with the Alberta base and really build a solid, comprehensive structure to look at best practices, how to best review it, and when to involve the public and industry.

Although the federal government does not promote it formally, there are organizations in Canada that are studying major emergency events and mitigation. York University has done tremendous work with flooding scenarios. Guelph University is doing a lot of work on what would happen if there were something in the water supply. The University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto have projects funded by the federal government. That information is starting to come back to us. It is a great opportunity.

Senator Mitchell: With such a varied governmental structure and so much to do, throughout these discussions I continue to have the feeling that there is a need for some level of government to take the leadership role. I know that is a problem in the provinces, but do you feel you are getting sufficient leadership from the federal government and do you feel that that is appropriate, or do you sense that there are jurisdictional and turf concerns in this process? Could the federal government be doing more without stepping on your toes?

Mr. Hope: We each have our roles and responsibilities. I would not look to the federal government for leadership beyond the leadership that we need to be providing in Ontario. We are currently working with the federal government through those FPT meetings.

Senator Moore: Mr. Hope, on page 1 of your submission you have mentioned that only about 13 per cent of Ontarians are self-sufficient. Is that a current number?

Mr. Hope: Yes, I believe it is current within the year. EKOS did a poll that showed that 13 per cent had a kit and 11 per cent had an emergency plan.

Senator Moore: Is that an improvement? Was such a survey done four or five years before that? Is the trend going the right way or has this historically been the rate of preparedness?

Mr. Hope: I do not know.

Senator Moore: What are the numbers in Alberta?

Mr. Hodgins: I do not have the numbers. I can only go by what we hear from our local governments who know that there is a lot to be done but feel they are making inroads in terms of having people taking the responsibility to prepare themselves.

Senator Moore: Do we know the national numbers, or is this just a provincial thing?

Mr. Hope: For me it is very intuitive.

Senator Moore: We should know that in order to know what we have to work on and how we are doing.

Mr. Hope: With Ontario being so large, my gut feeling is that the number is probably representative.

Senator Moore: You mentioned that municipal readiness is provided for in the statute. Is there similar legislation in Alberta or any other province?

Mr. Hodgins: I could not speak to other provinces, but we do not have legislation that specifically requires that we promote and support. The Government of Alberta has a new government emergency management regulation passed in December 2007 that requires the government to work with our emergency management partners in an effort to be prepared.

Senator Moore: Could you leave a copy of that with our committee?

Mr. Hodgins: Yes.

Senator Moore: Mr. Hope, on page 4 you are presentation you say, ``A municipal emergency may be declared when the head of council believes a situation . . . .'' Did you mean ``the council,'' or can the mayor or warden do this unilaterally? Does it happen when that person gives notification?

Mr. Hope: They will go through a process. The head of council actually makes the declaration. I cannot imagine them making it in a vacuum. I am sure it is a process.

Senator Moore: Mr. Hodgins, what was the response of the caller when you asked whether he had notified the emergency people not to come to his house?

Mr. Hodgins: There was a distinct click on the line. After that caller, people said that they had not thought about the fact that because they were not prepared people would have to come with lights and sirens. They realized that they should take responsibility and not be complacent.

Senator Moore: It stirred that thought, if nothing else.

Mr. Hodgins: It did.

The Chair: The federal government differentiated between property and life as a signal to get going on things. Essentially they said that property was too broad a definition and threat to life was easier to determine. Neither of you seem to have made that distinction. Is there a reason for that?

Mr. Hope: From my standpoint, first and foremost is life and second is property. The important thing to remember is that the elements of critical infrastructure assurance support life, and so they are vital. Whether it is food and water, energy, electricity, transportation, telecommunications or the other sectors, they are key, but from my standpoint it is life first and infrastructure second.

The Chair: Perhaps it would be easier if I added that there was great concern about wind storms and the number of them that might trigger too many responses.

Mr. Hodgins: We always focus our efforts, energies and resources on life safety and doing what we can for the victims of any type of an event, as well as the safety of first responders. Once those things are looked after, we move to property.

However, we also understand that preparing for what could cause significant damage to properties could create a life safety situation, as Mr. Hope indicated. We are very much focused on that. The experience in Alberta in the last few years with overland flooding has taught us that it is important to do what we can to protect properties so that we do not end up in life-threatening situations.

The Chair: Have either of you done an audit of different departments to determine whether their continuity of government plans is appropriate?

Mr. Hope: I was appointed Deputy Manager responsible for Emergency Planning and Management in Ontario, and that has integrated responsibility not only for the community preparedness but also for the continuity of government business. The two are working hand in hand under one roof, under my authority.

The Chair: Do you report to Queen's Park on the status of each department's capability?

Mr. Hope: In a manner of speaking. The plans come into Emergency Management Ontario. We review them and from time to time the Cabinet Committee on Emergency Management asks about a particular ministry. We do not have a formal structure with a report card for each ministry, but about 13 of them have order-in-council responsibilities for certain things, and from time to time we report on some of those.

Mr. Hodgins: In Alberta, we have an effective program and a new regulation that requires business continuity to happen. As deputy head, I am responsible to ensure that each ministry, department and agency across government has a business continuity program in place, that the programs are tested and that we routinely hold exercises to ensure that what it says in the report on business continuity is the case. It is a very robust program. We have had tremendous buy- in from the various ministries and government agencies. They want to be prepared for major emergency events. Alberta has a model program, in my humble opinion.

The Chair: Senator Banks had a thorough discussion with you about communication. Am I missing something, or are communications essentially solved by having an operations centre with the capacity to communicate with everyone because everyone is communicating back to the centre?

Mr. Hodgins: In my opinion and experience, the hardware, the platform, is only one part of the challenge. The other significant opportunity is to ensure people understand what needs to be communicated, when it needs to be communicated and how to communicate it so those making the decisions on deployment can make the right decisions.

The Chair: That speaks to your answer about good people who are trained.

Mr. Hodgins: Yes. If I can give you an example, going back to Hurricane Katrina, we have all read about what happened in that situation and the things that did not go well. Fast forward a few years to the wildfires in California. As the President was touring with the senior representative from FEMA, people were thanking him in front of their homes that were totally destroyed. One would wonder: What changed between Hurricane Katrina, where people did not make the decision to act, to wildfires, where people in the system made the decisions, acted and did the right thing in the interests of public safety?

Senator Moore: Mr. Hodgins, how much does the Alberta First Responders Radio Communications System cost to operate and who is paying for it?

Mr. Hodgins: It is a provincial system.

Senator Moore: Totally?

Mr. Hodgins: Yes, but with a tremendous amount of input from all of the users, including the police across the province, fire departments, paramedic systems and transportation systems.

Senator Moore: What does it cost? You said it is a multimillion dollar operation.

Mr. Hodgins: It is not my program.

Senator Moore: You do not know?

Mr. Hodgins: I understand it is a multimillion-dollar operation.

The Chair: We will be asking if you would be kind enough to answer a number of questions we did not have time to ask you. If we put this question on the list, could you get an answer for us?

Mr. Hodgins: Absolutely.

Senator Moore: As well as who is paying for that system?

Mr. Hodgins: There is a deputy minister or the Solicitor General who would have that information.

Senator Moore: I asked about the 13 per cent of people and Senator Tkachuk asked: Who are they? Are they broken down by urban, rural, age bracket, et cetera? Is there a breakdown or trend we can pick up on? Maybe you can advise us of that as well.

Mr. Hope: I do not have that information.

Senator Moore: Could you try and find it?

Mr. Hope: I am sure EKOS would be able to break that down. That might be an organization you could reach out to.

The Chair: I would ask you to let us know via correspondence.

What difference have you seen since Canada Command has been set up?

Mr. Hodgins: My experience in both British Columbia and Alberta has been positive. I met with Rear-Admiral Girouard several times when I was an ADM and fire commissioner in British Columbia to talk about systems and structures and how to ask for help and get it.

In Alberta, there is a liaison officer in Edmonton who works with us routinely. We will take that to the next step and ask to have a representative work within our facilities full time. That is the type of relationship we need.

Mr. Hope: It is the same in Ontario. We have an excellent relationship with them. Al Howard came and met with me. He is the head in Ontario. When we have an emergency, they have a seat in our provincial emergency operations centre. We are moving toward a new structure in 2012 and hoping that we will be able to either have them in the same building with us or some other variation. We have an excellent relationship.

The Chair: Gentlemen, on behalf of the committee, I would like to thank you very much. I must tell you we had about 23 questions we did not have a chance to ask you because senators decided to freelance with better questions. If we may, we will send them to you, and if you could assist us by replying, we would be very grateful.

You have provided us with a great deal of information that will assist us in our work. On behalf of the ladies and gentlemen you see here, we thank you very much.

Mr. Hodgins: If I could make a comment to wrap up. We talk a lot about the need to prepare for political terrorism. There is another significant threat within Canada that is important not to forget, and that is the threat of fire. When you see almost 300 deaths in Canada annually as a result of fire — 14 firefighter deaths in 2006, and in 10 years we have lost 122 firefighters in Canada — we need to think about where we are with what happens day to day within this country.

I had a chance recently to review a study commissioned by the federal government. J. Grove Smith wrote about fire waste in Canada and came back with some really solid recommendations focusing on power and hydro lines and the need to ensure they are buried so firefighters can effectively get to the structures, as well as the importance of automatic sprinklers.

The interesting note about J. Grove Smith and his association with the federal government was that the year was 1918. That book is still available.

As we collectively think about being prepared, I would like to say that the sound of a siren is the sound of a system failure. Every time you hear a fire, police or ambulance siren, you have to ask yourself, ``What has failed in our system?''

The Chair: That is a very good point to end on.

The committee continued in camera.